Some called him a madman. To others, he was just an abusive S.O.B. who had created his own high-security compound outside of town. Whatever the case, he was a known outlaw, who had been known to have ordered the killings of people in his own gang. The rest of the people in his compound were kept as prisoners, and often abused. Occasionally, he had assaulted his neighbors. The state police had fought him back into his own compound, and for several years had kept him contained. Part of the “deal” they had cut with him was that he would disarm; however, he had either failed to disarm or at least worked hard to give that impression. He continued to mock the state authorities, throwing them an occasional bone but remaining defiant and incompliant. Most communities in the area were in favor of leaving him alone, as long as he only abused the hostages in his own compound.
Enter the Lone Ranger and Tonto. What do they do? Listen to public opinion and do nothing, or take action and set the hostages free?
A large band of outlaws – renegade soldiers, rustlers and gunfighters – had been terrorizing the area settlements for years, striking suddenly, and leaving death and destruction in their wake. Their only motivation appeared to be a hatred for civilization; their leader, Black Bart, expressed ideals that were nothing more than a facade for sociopathic attitudes. These outlaws roamed the countryside in smaller groups, often living among the settlements disguised as ordinary, hard-working citizens. As such, the local sheriffs were either unable or unwilling to take them on.
As the story begins, the Lone Ranger and Tonto just broken the stronghold of the outlaws and had sent them running. Several times the Lone Ranger, with the cooperation of a few brave lawmen, had been able to successfully thwart their plans. Now, Black Bart, in true outlaw style, sent word out to all of the settlements that he was out to get the Lone Ranger and any who would help him. Suddenly, our hero finds himself being distrusted and even hated by those who live in fear, or who naively believe that they will be safe, if only the lawmen would leave Black Bart’s band alone.
Most of you have picked up on the allegories, and yeah, I know, the Lone Ranger doesn’t always wear a white hat. However, here’s the point of all of this: very few of us, in a more localized setting, would take a side against those who believe they have a moral obligation to enforce the law. I don’t know of anyone who’d support disbanding our local police force (or disarming them) so that the criminals would roam free. Will the police ever rid the city of crime completely? I don’t think so; however, is that any reason not to enforce the law?
Paul admonishes us to support our government, because it is their task to protect us and to fight evil. As Paul says of those in authority, “he doesn’t bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13). So, obviously God is not opposed to the State use of force to control crime. Now the question is, if we have the ability to fight evil and rescue the oppressed outside of our borders, where does our moral obligation lie? Do we take a “pacifist” stance? Who is more moral?
Things are not always so clear when they are put into different contexts. One of my sons last night commented that one of the things that makes Christianity so plausible was that there are so many things that are not clear (a false religion would take steps to do away with the gray areas).
We can debate wisdom, we can question intent – but, we definitely err if we assume things are black or white.
So, Kemo Sabe, what now?
Flattery can also be truth…
I’ve been really struggling with the “Christian” blogs. There are fewer and fewer blogs that are willing to have a dialogue.
I’ve been writing a lot about community. One person who is particularly tough on my thoughts (at my invitation) pushed me on our inability as “Christians” to disagree.
What caught my eye was:
“By the way, I truly appreciate this discussion; these are issues that should be discussed.”
Honestly, you would be hard pressed to find another blog where the host made either one of those statements…
…let alone BOTH.
Oh, now you’re resorting to flattery? 😉
I’m not thinking so much about mercy or justice to the criminal but to those he would harm if we let him go. The pendulum has swung so far to the left concerning “criminal’s rights” that society is suffering as a result.
What is the Christian’s attitude to be towards fighting crime? It’s not an easy “fill in the blank” answer. One of the problems we have, I think, is that we often confuse God’s mercy with justice. Was it punishment for God to toss Adam & Eve out of the Garden, or mercy? (What if they would have eaten of the Tree of Life in a fallen state?)
If we analyze the more “violent” acts of God in the Old Testament this way, I think perhaps we can develop a bigger “bigger picture.” Mercy is not always withholding punishment – for both the criminal and future victims.
I’m still working through your dual-message theory; I’ve heard similar things before, but they’ve never been well thought through. I’m still not there yet, though… 😉
Alden, you are one of the few people capable of this discussion…
If the criminal hurts the hostage AND we show the criminal mercy (by letting him go), do you think the criminal ULTIMATELY avoids justice?
I believe the criminal could avoid justice here, but ultimately, it will all equal out in the end (judgment).
The definition for “reward” is “to recompense BOTH good and bad”. Reward is akin to justice.
We can act on the behalf of others (hence the swords), we are not supposed to act on our own behalf because we get an eternal reward through justice.
This goes to another topic but I believe Jesus had two messages: 1)How to get to heaven (salvation) and 2)How to get value here and in heaven (reward). Salvation concerns righteousness and Reward concerns justice.
The parables can be separated into each category (except for the parable of the talents which covers both).
The problem is people try to make Jesus’ message into one message. When reward scriptures are applied to salvation we end up with legalism.
Jesus had separate comments in the Sermon on the Mount for making it to heaven and getting reward, he gave TWO commandments, there are two judgments…
…one concerns salvation and the other concerns reward.
Intereting point of view, but, I don’t agree with your definitions. For one, you seem to have defined karma, not justice. In this context, justice is handing out the penalties or rewards according to the rules (not equity). (The parable of the laborers supports this definition.) Mercy, besides meaning compassion, is “the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment.”
I agree, forgiveness is another issue altogether. Back to my scenario of a criminal holding a gun to the head of a hostage, where does mercy come into play? Too often we show mercy to the poor criminal, to let him kill or rape again (but, that’s a different issue).
Again, your comment “when bad things happen to us…” sounds more like karma than justice. When bad things happen to us, first and foremost, it just sucks. I know people who “credit” God with this, but there’s usually a ton of bad theology behind that.
A “Big Picture” view must consider that Jesus is not the “good cop” to the Father’s “bad cop.” Jesus shows us God’s nature, but that doesn’t contradict the God of the Old Testament. It takes into account Romans 13 as well as “turn the other cheek.” It has to ask, “why did Jesus tell his disciples to buy swords?”
By the way, I truly appreciate this discussion; these are issues that should be discussed.
This concerns justice but it takes a bigger picture view…
Justice says EVERYTHING will EVENTUALLY EQUAL out.
Mercy is the time period between the bad act and the punishment.
Us showing mercy is definitely different than us showing forgiveness. Forgiveness benefits the forgiver. Forgiveness tells God you won’t get your own justice…AND that allows God to invoke justice.
When bad things happen to us it is to our advantage because it results in rewards BECAUSE of justice (having to eventually being equaled out).
When we try to equal out justice ourselves for our direct benefit this is called vengeance.
I think all of this from a Big Picture view not only would stand up to sound analysis, it would agree with what Jesus taught.
Actually, I’m not talking about justice. It’s not the job of “lawmen” to hand out justice, they “protect and serve” and enforce the law; justice is for the courts. It is entirely appropriate, then, that Saddam is being tried by his own countrymen.
As to the villian not acting physically toward us, I think the facts disagree. The “terrorists” have not only acted against us, but against many other nations, and in this case we have the cooperation of many nations in preventing further attacks. As to Saddam’s regime, remember Kuwait. He had been in violation of international law from that point on. One of the problems was that the world had let him slide for far too long.
Now, I am not saying that we were right in invading Iraq when we did; I don’t have enough facts to judge that. The majority of the Iraqi citizens think we were (but we usually don’t hear stuff like this on the news). But, this is really not my issue.
I disagree that “justice is making us pay for this today;” that’s like saying that a continuation of crime is due to our attempts to stop it. Often when we say justice, we mean vengeance. Both, really, belong to God. Instead, we can show mercy; but what does that really mean? Mercy for whom? Is showing mercy to a criminal with a gun to the head of a potential victim really mercy for anyone?
I am merely trying to point out the complexity of the world situation; I believe that those on both extremes have come to conclusions which will not stand up to sound analysis.
It seems we are once again confronted with the question of justice…
Jesus got angry and took action on the behalf of others. He did not take action on his own behalf.
We as a nation should take action on behalf of others, not on our own behalf.
Morality says we can’t do anything we wouldn’t done to us.
Like it or not, we wouldn’t want another country telling us how to handle our citizens. If we would, then we shouldn’t have a problem with another country invading us to fix our “immorality”.
Also, we can’t initiate force, we can only respond in LIKE manner.
Like it or not, the villian didn’t act physically against us. You can say you think he was going to, but UNTIL HE DOES, it is immoral to act physically against someone in response to someone’s intent…
…and justice is making us pay for this today.
All good questions. As one of my favorite authors has said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.” He also advised to make some decisions of right and wrong based upon our faith. (Fortunately, I have a personality profile which flourishes outside the box.) Bonhoeffer dealt with these questions, and I’ve had a hard time finding fault with his conclusion.
Concerning the abortion issue, the obvious distinction is that Hill’s doctrine was itself against the law, taking a stand against the government; this is more appropriately compared to Bonhoeffer’s choice than to a State choice.
My comment re black and white was meant to apply to the issue at hand, where like so many other issues, the Bible does not support absolutist positions.
My Lone Ranger would rather ride off into the sunset than mess with Roy Rogers’ horse.
Hi ho Silver, away!
The March 1993 assassination of Dr. David Gunn inspired a tiny number of anti-abortionists to come out of the woodwork and condone “justifiable homicide.” In the two years after the Gunn murder, several small-circulation publications and organizations had distinguished themselves for their support of such a doctrine. In 1993, about two dozen individuals signed a “Defensive Action” statement drafted by Paul Hill to the effect that killing abortion doctors was justified.
Interviewed by Nightline’s Ted Koppel on December 8, 1993, Hill, the director of Defensive Action, said, “We’re saying 30 million children have died. . . . Sometimes you have to use force to stop people from killing innocent children.”
1. How do we distinguish (or can we) between Hill’s doctrine of “defensive action” on behalf of the unborn and the State’s use of deadly force to protect its innocent citizens from terrorism?
2. Can what is moral in principle become immoral in execution? Do the ends always justify the means?
3. Are 24 people in agreement different in nature from the State (many of whose citizens may not be in agreement)? How many people in agreement does it take to make a “state” who can justify its own actions?
4. Do we always “definitely err” if we assume something is either black or white? Where does that leave the claims of Christ? (Or do you mean we definitely err if we assume only some things are black and white.) In fact, isn’t your assertion itself a black and white assumption?
5. Is your Lone Ranger a bit Trigger happy?